§ The Papers relative to the disturbed state of Ireland having been read,
The Marquis of Londonderry
rose, in pursuance of notice, to call the attention of the House to that part of his majesty's Speech which related to the internal state of Ireland. He trusted the House would think him sincere when he said, that he never had been called upon to perform any duty more painful to him, whether he contemplated it in his public or in his private character. From experience of the manner in which Ireland had conducted herself of late years, it was certainly to have been hoped, either that tranquillity would have been preserved, or if it were disturbed, that it might have been restored without the melancholy contemplation that it was necessary to repress outrage by the strong arm of power. It was a cause of additional distress to him, that it had fallen to his lot to bring forward this subject: it more properly belonged to right hon. friends, who, from their offices, were particularly responsible for the state of Ireland. He could not give a more pregnant proof of the urgency attaching to this business, than to state that he had felt it his duty, not merely at the instance of the administration on this side of the water, but at the express solicitation of the individual now charged with the government of Ireland, not to delay its introduction, until his right hon. friends, the secretary for Ireland, and the secretary for the home department, were able to assist in the deliberations of the House. He therefore threw himself on the indulgence of the House, while he performed a task distressing to himself, and which would come with greater weight and authority from those who were more immediately connected with the interior state of Ireland.—He would now endeavour to state, as shortly as possible, the nature of his propositions, and the 105 grounds upon which he rested them. If he succeeded in conveying to the House, briefly, his sense of what the case demanded, on every principle of public policy and public safety, on every principle of public order, and mercy to the unfortunate and deluded beings engaged in this rebellious insurrection, it would be the more grateful to his feelings; because, nothing could be so painful as to dwell upon so melancholy a subject. He should best execute his purpose by first stating the nature of the measures lie should suggest; in the next place, the period for which he proposed they should continue; and thirdly, he should endeavour to establish the grounds on which those measures appeared to be of exigent necessity to the government of which he was a member. Upon the best view ministers had been able to take of the whole question, and at the immediate instance of the lord lieutenant of Ireland and his advisers, they had determined to propose, that parliament ought to proceed with the least possible delay, to furnish the executive authorities in Ireland with additional powers for the restoration of the public peace. They had, therefore, resolved to recommend to the House the re-enactment of the Insurrection bill, as well as a former law, commonly known by the title of the Habeas Corpus Suspension act, under which persons suspected of being dangerous might be apprehended and secured. Before he proceeded to argue how far the case was of a description to induce parliament to comply with this application, he wished to apprise them of the duration it was intended to give these re-enactments. He anxiously hoped it would not be found necessary to renew either of these bills beyond the 1st of August; more especially that by which the Habeas Corpus act was to be suspended. He was prepared to admit, that of all painful measures this last was the most painful; and nothing but the strongest impression of its absolute necessity could induce him to propose it. He could not, without the utmost reluctance, deny to any class of his majesty's subjects the enjoyment of that important writ, which had and fitly long been considered one of the best and dearest birth-rights of Englishmen. He believed that the present was the first occasion on which it had ever been proposed to revive the Insurrection act for a time so limited. Whenever parliament, had adopted this precautionary 106 measure, to be applied locally, and on, the statement of an adequate emergency, no shorter period for its duration than three years had yet been fixed. As, however, he trusted to be able to persuade the House to pass it now with the least possible delay, he should be sorry to name any time for its continuance beyond what the undeniable necessity of the case fully warranted. In a subsequent part of the session, it would be open to the House to consider whether a renewal of the bill might or might not be expedient. Disturbances had existed in the bosom of the metropolis, and then it was that the House had formerly, at one sitting, passed, not only the Habeas Corpus Suspension act, but a measure known by the title of the Martial law bill, which in some respects was infinitely more strong than the Insurrection act. The papers just laid upon the table presented nothing short of absolute rebellion, prevailing in a considerable portion of the south and south-west of Ireland. Rebellion was in the field: it was characterized by every mark belonging to Insurrection; resistance to the law, defiance of the constituted authorities, and every component principle of rebellion. The judgment and discretion of his majesty's lieutenant in Ireland must carry weight in every quarter of the House, and he was most decidedly of opinion that such extraordinary powers could not be too soon communicated. He therefore called for them, both on the responsibility of the government, here and on the responsibility of the noble marquis immediately charged with the administration of the affairs of Ireland. He claimed of the House that it would not consider that these laws were called for merely on the strength of the evidence contained in the papers upon the table. He apprehended that hon. gentlemen had always held it consistent with their duty to place a fair degree of confidence in ministers in cases of public exigency. Even before a secret committee the disclosure of all the particulars known to the cabinet had sometimes not been thought expedient; and the cases were not few in which parliament had taken the exigency on the declaration of the responsible advisers of the Crown. He had already stated that the papers contained such details as proved the clear, undoubted, but melancholy fact, that actual rebellion was at that moment in the field in the south and south-west of Ireland. He could conceive nothing more 107 calculated to encourage the spirit of disaffection, and to appal and dismay the loyal subject, than for parliament to hesitate now in strengthening the hands of government, as it had done in the time of the predecessor of lord Wellesley, when Ireland was exposed to peril, not of a more serious nature than at the present moment. It afforded him considerable satisfaction to be enabled to state, that the existing rebellion in Ireland was not characterised by any of those wild and theoretical principles of government which at this moment might be said to pervade the world ["Hear, hear," from the Opposition benches]. The spirit in which that remark was received certainly did not show that the measures now before the House were unnecessary. There was a clear distinction between a rebellion of ignorance and of knowledge. Here pressing need and distress were the source of the calamity; and if politics had been involved in the movements of the distractors of the public tranquillity, it was certain that such proceedings could not end in an extension of liberty. But, because political motives were not now attributable to the rebels, was certainly no reason why the rebellion should not be met by the strong arm of the law. If, in the present Insurrection, those symptoms which existed on other occasions were not to be traced—if in this instance men of education did not take part with the disaffected, and thereby accomplish more permanent injury—it did not follow that the consequences were not to be dreaded, and if possible avoided. The rebellion now carried on was not indeed directed against any particular constitution or form of government under which we lived, but it was directed against every principle of government—against every tie by which mankind was united—against the first principles of social order. The object was, by physical power, to overthrow and destroy all the constituted authorities of the country; and it called into aid the most desperate crimes by which our nature could be degraded—murder and assassination. He was happy, nevertheless, to be able to say, that as political feeling was not mixed up with the existing disturbances, so religions animosities had no connexion with them. Let not the House, however, be sure that if it delayed to act with vigour and effect against these infatuated traitors, the rebellion might not acquire both a religious and a political 108 character. Holding as highly as any man the propriety of conciliation in general, he begged to declare that, to connect it with the bills now under consideration, would, in his view, be a course most fatal to the public interest. He earnestly deprecated the mixture of any such matters: this was in no respect the fit opportunity for the right hon. baronet to enter into the consideration of any case of grievance: this was not the time for discussing why Ireland was more susceptible of commotion than Scotland, or any other portion of the empire, or why a better system of legislation might not be pursued with regard to the Catholics. The object now was, to put down all law, and to dispose of all property; for this rebellion went to nothing short of that point: every thing was to be regulated according to the unknown system of some invisible government: by that it was to be decided how gentlemen were to let their lands, or whether they should let them at all. This, in short, was a rebellion of murder and plunder; and if the House supported the motion of the right hon. baronet, it would sow more deeply than ever the seeds of perpetual disturbance. He therefore most solemnly protested against mixing up matters of grievance with the question of the maintenance of the law: it was only in times of tranquillity that the House could legislate with wisdom and effect upon such subjects. He Mt much confidence, that the right hon. baronet would give due weight to these considerations, and assist him in pursuing a course which all who were interested in the welfare of Ireland must, he thought, be disposed to follow—a course which the distinguished individual who had not long since so ably advocated the claims of the Roman Catholics would be anxious to second, and which had been prudently and temperately adopted on a former occasion. When the country was in a state of disturbance and confusion, the year before last, the House had heard no desire from any quarter, that the claims of the Catholics should be taken into consideration; all parties then studiously abstained from their introduction, and it was not until tranquillity had been perfectly restored in this country (Ireland in the interval remaining undisturbed), that the question, in which they were so deeply interested, was brought under the notice of parliament. He trusted that the heads and 109 leaders of the Catholic body in Ireland would not wish their disabilities to be mixed up with this great and paramount object of enforcing the law, and of protecting the lives of the king's loyal subjects. No course could be more fatal to Ireland or to the expectations of the Roman Catholics, than that which en the former evening the right hon. baronet seemed disposed to recommend. He trusted that the House would look at this question as one which was extremely pain fill to the executive government, on whom the duty of bringing it forward necessarily devolved. He hoped hon. gentlemen would judge, from the course pursued by government for many years towards the sister country, how anxious those at the head of the national affairs were to secure its peace and tranquillity; how desirous they felt that the cloud which at present darkened its prosperity should speedily pass away. It was true, that many pledges had been given to the people of Ireland of the anxious desire entertained by government, that they should enjoy all the blessings of the law and constitution. The very delay which had taken place in bringing this subject under the consideration of parliament was, in itself, a proof of the conciliatory spirit which animated the breast of the executive government. They were most anxious, before they demanded extraordinary powers from parliament, that they should be possessed of a perfect knowledge of the state of Ireland; and they were also desirous of learning what effect was likely to be produced by the application, in the South of Ireland, of certain remedies which had been found effectual in the West. The county of Galway had manifested great symptoms ofinsubordination—a fact which, he believed, an hon. friend opposite, to whose exertions the preservation of the peace in an adjacent county was chiefly to be attributed, could fully substantiate: the county of Galway had been, in fact, most dangerously disturbed, but it was restored to tranquillity by a due exercise of the powers of the law, aided by a large military force. In the same way a special commission was sent into the county of Limerick, and additional troops were also marched there; but the effect was not the same. These measures proved to be almost wholly inefficacious: and therefore it was, that extraordinary powers were now called for. He was quite sure that the noble lord at the head of the 110 government of Ireland, however anxious he must be to administer the law, as it now stood—however desirous he must be, like his predecessor, to make the people of Ireland duly feel and appreciate the benignant sway of the House of Hanover, under which they lived, must at the same time be convinced, that the first duty which he owed to that country was, to cause the law to be respected, and to show that legal enactments were capable of securing both persons and property. He would, therefore, have been trifling with the true principles of moderation and of justice, if he had not come to that House, when the necessity was so evident, for those extraordinary powers which were resorted to on former occasions, as the only remedies against evils similar to those which now existed, in an alarming degree. He was under the painful necessity of stating to the House, that since the receipt of the despatches which had been laid on the table, fresh accounts had been transmitted from the Irish government, which showed that the mischief was considerably aggravated, both in character and degree. Some transactions had occurred, so horrible in themselves, and so painfully distressing to the feelings of those, who, like himself were intimately connected with Ireland, that he could not enter into a detail of the particulars. The practice of attacking houses had increased to an alarming degree, and, in some instances, was accompanied by circumstances of extreme barbarity. In one case, a house in which there were 16 police-men, was surrounded by a body of 2,000 insurgents; who, not being able to effect their object by the use of fire-arms, had recourse to fire, in order to compel the legal force to surrender. In that affray those sixteen individuals who were employed to preserve the peace, were either killed on the spot, or dangerously wounded. The officer who commanded the garrison of Cork stated, that he had seen large bodies of men in the mountains in the neighbourhood of that city; and, though troops were sent into the western district, and even marched into the mountains, they had not been able to drive those deluded people from their fastnesses. He had therefore every reason to believe that, unless the executive government was armed with such powers as the Insurrection act and the Suspension of the Habeas Corpus, act would confer, the present disturbances could not be effectually put down. The 111 insurrection act was peculiarly applicable to the existing evil. All the operations of those misguided men were carried on by night. The visiting of houses, the forcing open dwellings, in more cases to obtain arms, but in many to possess themselves of other property, were effected in the night time. Large parties of insurgents on horseback travelled from one distant part of a county to another by night, for the purpose of more securely effecting their illegal designs. He trusted that the House would not call on him to state all the reasons which had induced the lord lieutenant to wish for the adoption of the Insurrection act. What he had stated was, he thought, quite sufficient for his purpose. In his opinion, the most advantageous view which could be taken of this rebellion was, that it was wholly confined to the ignorant classes of the people—to those who were without property, without personal influence, without education—with those, in short, who were far removed from the higher orders of society. None of the latter were in any degree connected with it; and he was happy to say, that the sincerity of those ardent manifestations of loyal and constitutional feeling which he had recently witnessed in Ireland, was not to be doubted, on account of the disturbances which unhappily prevailed in different districts. The influence of time, the extension of civilization, and the encouragement of education, would render triumphant that conciliatory feeling, which the imprudence of individuals, who endeavoured to push the principle too far, and too suddenly, had shaken, but had not destroyed. It was perfectly compatible with the present state of affairs in Ireland, (extraordinary as it might seem), that that country was now in a better situation than at any former period, although a portion of its population was arrayed against the legal authorities. Those who were in this state of insubordination were put in motion, partly by distress, partly by evil habits, and partly by that system of cabal and faction which was always resorted to for the purpose of effecting particular objects, which nothing but time could remove. Still, lest such disturbances might take the more dangerous tint of a political and religious rebellion, parliament was called on to interpose its authority. The mischief was, at present, confined to the lower orders; but it was not, therefore, to be treated lightly; because, though the crimes of those deluded men, arising from 112 the causes he had enumerated, formed a happy contrast to a rebellion originating in religious or political causes, still if such an insurrection were allowed to rage in Ireland for any considerable period, individuals connected with a better class of the community might engage in those criminal excesses. He hoped, therefore, that he did not request any thing beyond what the necessity of the case required, when he called on the House to enable him to carry these measures into effect with the least possible delay. It was his duty to propose the renewal of the Insurrection act, for a period considerably less than that to which it had been usually extended. When he called on the House to agree to the measures which the state of Ireland rendered necessary with the least possible delay, it would be observed, that he did not demand of them to place those laws out of the reach of their consideration in the present session. They would have an immediate opportunity of judging of their operation in restoring order; and at no distant day, they would hear the sentiments of his right hon. friend the secretary of state for the home department, than whom no man possessed a more extensive knowledge of the probable effect of those measures, as well as the opinion of the chief secretary for Ireland, who had arrived in town that day. But after the representations which had been made to government, from both sides of the water, as to the necessity of adopting efficient and vigorous measures, to check the farther growth of the existing evil, it was not deemed advisable to postpone the introduction of the bills to which he had adverted, until the assistance of those gentlemen could be obtained. The noble marquis concluded with moving. "That leave be given to bring in a bill to suppress Insurrections, and prevent the disturbance of the public peace in Ireland.
§ Sir J. Newport
hoped the House would feel, after the appeal which had been so pointedly made to him by the noble lord, that it was absolutely necessary for hint to make a few observations. If the noble lord, in his high situation, upheld as he was by a powerful train of supporters felt it necessary to throw himself on the indulgence of the House for a patient hearing, how much more reason had he to entreat their indulgence, whilst he stated as briefly as possible, his opinion on this vital question. However painful might be the feelings which the noble lord stated as actuating him on this occasion, he could assure 113 the House that they were met by feelings on his part which were not less painful, because he was afraid that he should be compelled to differ on this occasion from individuals whom be highly respected and esteemed. The noble lord had called the attention of the House to the hands in which the executive government of Ireland was at, present placed. In reference to that point, he would take leave to say that there was no man in that House, not even the noble lord himself, who more highly respected the individual now at the head of the Irish government than he did, or who was a greater admirer of his energy, his political talent, his public spirit, or his exalted humanity. Long as his public duties had detained that noble lord from his native country, and although peculiar circumstances might induce him to call for measures of coercion, still he felt the most perfect conviction, that the noble lord bore in his bosom a heart devoted to the interests of his native country. If the House were now obliged to adopt a remedy of the kind proposed by his majesty's government, he could conscientiously say, that the blame did not rest with him; and, for the purpose of showing that the error lay entirely with those who administered the affairs of that country, he would refer gentlemen to the Journals of the House, where they would find that, on the 19th of June, 1817, a motion was made for an inquiry into the state of Ireland, which motion was negatived.—[The clerk here read the motion, which was, "that an humble address be presented to the Prince Regent, praying that his royal highness would graciously please to direct such a deliberate and accurate inquiry, during the prorogation of parliament, into the state and condition of the people of Ireland, as would develope the nature and point out the causes of the evils which affected that part of the united kingdom, and devise such efficacious and salutary remedies as appeared most adequate to accomplish that object; and, in the emphatic words of the act of union, "promote the prosperity and consolidate the strength and resources of the empire."] Such was the motion made in June, 1817, and that motion was negatived. It was worthy of remark, that one of the tellers who negatived that motion was now secretary of state for the home department. Those who supported that motion called for nothing but that a patient and deliberate inquiry should be made into the condition of the people of Ireland during the 114 recess, so as to enable the House in the next session to probe to the bottom the evil under which that country suffered, and to apply some adequate remedy. That motion, fair and moderate as it was, was negatived. Was he, then, under such circumstances, greatly to blame, if he hesitated to give his confidence to an administration which had acted in this manner? Would he be justified in blindly placing his reliance on the wisdom or justice of those who had refused to examine the extent and cause of the misfortunes which afflicted Ireland, when they came and told the House (he was sorry to say, with too much truth,) that the evils required coercive measures to put them down? No man knew better than be did, that strong measures were necessary. But the difference between the noble lord and himself was, as to the nature and extent of those measures. The noble lord had said, "let us put down the rebellion." So, also, be said; but he could not agree to the adoption of most oppressive measures, which bore the deceitful semblance of constitutional acts. If necessary, let recourse be had to martial law. He would prefer even that to the measures proposed by the noble lord; because it was a plain and clear proceeding, and did not pretend to uphold the constitution, which, in fact, it superseded for a time. The noble lord said much about the efficacy of the insurrection act, but he had not uttered a word relative to the laws which at present existed in Ireland, and were applicable to the circumstances of the times. He wished the noble lord would give the English members some information relative to the acts which were to be found in the Irish Statute-book, the White Boy act, for instance. He would venture to affirm, that there were not five members of that House who knew the nature of that act. The noble lord had alluded strongly to the circumstances of the peasantry going about at night. Now, the White Boy act made that penal. Not merely was the going about at night in bodies, but individually, a penal offence under that act. He knew that he differed —unfortunately differed—from a great body of his countrymen; but, while he remained in that House, however painful the duty which it might fall to his lot to discharge, that duty he would fearlessly perform. He could not bend his mind to place confidence—he would not say in the noble lord, for he had no right to expect his confidence, he had never tendered his 115 confidence to him—but in some of those whom he knew, and who formed component parts of his administration. The noble lord had stated, that these coercive measures were demanded by the executive government of Ireland: but, there was not a single word in the papers on their table which bore out this statement. On the contrary, there was one instance, in which a police magistrate, who expressed a wish for the Insurrection act, coupled it with the alternative of employing more troops. The noble lord had thrown out an insinuation, that, if these coercive measures were not resorted to, the insurrection in different parts of the country, would, perhaps, assume a political or religious character. This observation filled him with very great concern; because, from what he had himself seen, he did not think the disturbances manifested any symptoms of a political or religious association. The best proof that no such danger existed was to be found in this fact—that, at no period in the history of Ireland, had the Roman Catholic clergy and laity encountered danger with greater firmness, or signalized themselves by the exhibition of greater spirit, than they had recently done, in endeavouring to put down those disturbances, at the hazard of their lives. The noble lord said, that he (sir J. N.) had stated on a former evening, that he would oppose all measures of severity, unless accompanied by measures of conciliation. No man was more devoted to the preservation of order and tranquillity than he was; and the noble lord mistook him, if he supposed, that, under any circumstances, he could lend his aid to any thing that savoured of a breach of the public peace. The noble lord might say that the safety of the state required the executive government to be armed with those extraordinary powers. He, on the other hand, who conceived those powers to be too extensive, would say, "let the government have what is necessary, and no more." If more troops were required; let them have more. If larger powers were necessary, let their powers be extended. Let a commission be appointed, attended by a proper number of troops, to sit from hour to hour, and day to day, until the insurrection was put down. Though the House was assembled to discuss the propriety of passing an insurrection bill, gentlemen were not, perhaps, acquainted with the nature of such a measure. They ought, when they were required to place a penal law on the 116 Statute-book, to be thoroughly conversant with its provisions. In the last year but one, a renewal of this penal measure was called for, under circumstances of as open and violent insurbordination as were ever stated to exist. The hon. member for Galway described the situation of the country, and contended that the Insurrection act ought to be renewed. The chief secretary for Ireland, however, held a different opinion, and declared that the disturbances could be put down without the aid of that coercive measure. The House agreed with him; and the consequence was, that that formidable rebellion was crushed without the assistance of the Insurrection act. What was the feeling of the judges on that subject? Had not one of them, at Limerick, stated that the laws in existence were sufficient to put down the malcontents? Now, what were the provisions of the Insurrection act? In the first place, any person being out after sunset, and before sunrise, under any pretext, whatever might be the cause of his being absent from home during that period, was liable, under the Insurrection act, to transportation—not, be it remembered, by the sentence or award of a jury (hear), but under the uncontrolled direction of the magistrates. The noble lord had deprecated any renewal of the Catholic question during the present session. But, however convenient it might be to his majesty's cabinet, to postpone the consideration of that subject, he believed it would not be found practicable to put it off. As he had been one of that party who had stated, over and over again, that the peace and tranquillity of Ireland would never be effectually secured until an equality of political rights was extended to the whole community, he would not compromise his opinions and feelings by adopting the sentiments of those who told them, that because Ireland was in a state approaching to rebellion, they ought therefore not to entertain a question, the success of which would greatly benefit, and consequently assist in tranquillizing that unfortunate country. He had now stated the reasons which induced him to oppose the noble lord's proposition. He hoped he had done so without inflaming any bad passion. He had divested himself, as far as he could of every impression that might lead him to revive the recollection of unpleasant transactions; and he entreated the House to bear in mind, above all things, that he was most anxious 117 to avoid the supposition of giving any shadow of countenance to those deluded people who were filling Ireland with disturbance.
said, that determined as he was to oppose the two measures proposed by the noble lord, he was anxious that the motives by which he was actuated should not be subject to any misrepresentation. He was aware of the disgraceful outrages in Ireland, and he agreed with the noble lord as to the absolute necessity of putting them down; but he did not agree that the means proposed by the noble lord would have that effect. In the first place they were not authorised by any thing that was to be found in the papers which had been laid before the House. It appeared that bodies of insurgents, amounting to 2, 3, and 5,000 men, had been invariably dispersed by parties of the military not amounting to more than 30, 50, or 60 men. From these facts, he inferred, that if the powers of the magistracy were enforced by a sufficient number of troops, the insurrection might be effectually put down. The suspension of the Habeas Corpus act was a measure, in his opinion, by no means applicable to the present condition of Ireland; for such a measure was only called for in case of actual rebellion, or the apprehension of rebellion. There was nothing political in the disturbances of Ireland, whatever might be said of their extent or atrocity; and therefore he could not conceive either of the measures proposed by the noble lord likely to do any good in that country. The noble lord had quoted the precedent of 1803, for the proceeding which he at present pressed; but there was no analogy whatever between the two cases, the insurrection of 1803 being actually rebellion, while the persons concerned in it were of a very different description from those who now appeared to excite the conduct of the Irish peasantry. He agreed with the noble lord and others, that those who had violated the law should be punished for that violation; but then he would call for inquiry as to the causes which had driven the unfortunate peasantry to such acts of desperation. It must be recollected that none of the promises held out at the Union to the Irish nation had been realised. He did not mean the promises with respect to Catholic emancipation and other measures of great importance; but those of inquiry into the general condition of Ireland, 118 with a view to the application of an effectual remedy, which the Irish were told should immediately follow the enactment of the Union. Such was distinctly the promise made by the most distinguished members of the government of the day. Such, indeed, was the language of Mr. Pitt, of the noble marquis himself, and of lord Clare, who pledged themselves, as well as all their colleagues, to the institution of the inquiry which he had described as soon as the Union was carried. Yet this pledge was never redeemed: no inquiry whatever as to the state of Ireland had ever since been instituted or proposed. How, then, were the Irish people likely to feel towards the legislature by which they had been so treated, or towards the statesmen who had so scandalously violated their positive promises? But, while inquiry as to the state of Ireland was thus withheld, when any disturbance arose in that country, nothing was proposed by ministers to meet it but measures of violence. He did not withhold his assent from the proposed measures through any distrust or disrespect, with regard to the character of the nobleman who at present presided over the government of Ireland. This observation was not made with any view to join in idle panegyric upon that nobleman, with whom he had not the honour of any personal acquaintance. It did not, however, appear, from any paper on the table, that this noble lord had called for the extraordinary powers with which it was proposed to invest him; but if the noble marquis had even made that call, he, for one, would never accede to it. All that could be collected from the papers before the House, served to show that the grant of such powers was unnecessary, and that if an additional military force of 5,000 men were stationed in Ireland, the whole of the disturbances which prevailed might be effectually put down under the existing law. Yet ministers called for the creation of these extraordinary powers within a single night, and consequently without affording any opportunity for due deliberation. But, was it possible that ministers or that parliament could flatter themselves, that to invest the marquis Wellesley with arbitrary power, would be sufficient to restore the tranquillity of Ireland? The Irish peasantry had many and most severe grievances to complain of; and unless those grievances were redressed, it was in vain to look for 119 peace in Ireland. Government might go on hanging, transporting, imprisoning, or scourging those unhappy people; but still, while their grievances existed, their disposition to disturbance would be still the same. The peasant, who might be considered a plant of the soil, must be conciliated by the granting of his just claims, or he would ever continue an insurgent at heart. Of the great body of the Irish landlords he wished to speak with every possible respect, as, from his own knowledge, they deserved it. But still he must say, that they did not appear duly to consider their own situation, or the duties which appertained to them, and which they most unfortunately neglected. Much was expected from them in favour of their unfortunate countrymen; but he was sorry to observe that that expectation too often proved vain. The system of tithes was an universal subject of complaint in Ireland; and why was not that complaint removed? The non-residence of landlords and clergymen was also a source of complaint. But through the various and peculiar causes which oppressed Ireland, the peasantry of that country were placed in a state of wretchedness such as was not to be parallelled in any nation of Europe. In corroboration of this fact he could quote the authority of strangers who were then present in the House, exclusive of the authority of every Irish gentleman who heard him. Upon these grounds, he thought it not too 'much to require that before the governor of Ireland was invested with arbitrary dominion in order to suppress a partial disturbance, a full inquiry should be instituted into the general state of that country, with a view to redress its grievances, to rescue it from misery, and thus effectually to remove the evils which had so often rendered Ireland a scene of disturbance and desolation.
conceived, that nothing could have a prior claim upon the attention of parliament than the devising of measures for the suppression of actual rebellion; for it could not be disputed that Ireland was at present in that unhappy state; although the hon. member for Cork had expressed some doubt upon the subject, as if opposition to the king's troops did not amount to rebellion and treason. He differed very widely from the right hon. baronet respecting his conception of the White-boy act and the Insurrection act, as the distinction 120 between those laws was very material indeed: the former entitling the interposition of power only when men appeared in a disorderly and disturbed state out of doors, while the latter warranted such interposition, when suspected persons were not found at home at certain hours. Thus the Insurrection act was calculated to prevent disturbances, while the White-boy act could only serve to put them down when they appeared. Which, then, was the more desirable law, that which prevented, or that which punished. It was, indeed, quite impossible to prevent insurrection in Ireland, without some such measure as the Insurrection act. The magistrates felt that they could not put down the disturbances that prevailed in Ireland without some such law; and from his own experience as a magistrate in the disturbed districts, he could support that impression. It could not be doubted that the ordinary administration of the law was insufficient to meet the existing spirit of violence. The commission at Limerick had notoriously no effect in quelling the disposition to tumult in that county; as the very day after the commission terminated, and after so many severe examples had been made to the violated laws of the kingdom, a person of the name of Slack was assassinated in a chapel yard, in consequence of his having given some information to government. Thus, it appeared, that these desperadoes were in no degree under the influence of religion; that religion of no kind had, in fact, any connexion with their misconduct. He agreed fully with the hon. member for Cork, as to the state of distress in which the peasantry of Ireland were involved; and he hoped that ministers would grant relief to that distress to the utmost extent that their resources could afford. He had himself endeavoured to mitigate this distress as far as his means enabled him; and he most sincerely regretted that those means were unequal to his wishes for relieving his countrymen, many of whom were actually starving. He spoke of the misery of the people in the county of Clare, with which he was more immediately connected. The hon. member for Cork had recommended the employment of more troops as the best means of suppressing the disturbances; but he could, from his own knowledge, state, that it was impossible for any number of troops to endure the harassing marches 121 which the various straggling parties of insurgents required to disperse their force, and to prevent the loyal inhabitants from being attacked or destroyed at late hours of the night, and in widely separated and distant parts. The Insurrection act, in compelling the inhabitants of each district to be at home within certain hours, would be a much more effectual means of putting clown the insurrection, of preserving the peace, and protecting the loyal inhabitants, than any amount of military force that might be sent to Ireland. He was quite aware that the proposed measures were unconstitutional; but he was glad to hear that they were only to exist for six months, and he felt it much better to endure the existence of such measures, particularly as they were but temporary, than to have the constitution itself placed in a state of imminent peril. The hon. member for Cork had objected to what he called the hurry with which it was proposed to press the measures brought forward by the noble marquis; but his complaint was, that those measures were not brought forward much sooner.
§ Mr. Spring Rice
said, that he should ill discharge his duty if he did not take occasion to express his opinion upon this subject, especially from his local connection with the district to which the discussion mainly referred. He felt some difficulty in determining how to proceed when the noble secretary of state so confidently declared, "You must pass these two coercive measures, or the insurrection in Ireland cannot be put down, and this you must do without any inquiry into the cause of that insurrection." He was as willing as any man to join in putting down rebellion or insurrection; but he must say, that it would be consolatory to his mind as an Irishman and a friend to common justice, to hear from the noble proposer of these measures, that an inquiry as to the state of Ireland was to be instituted before such measures were passed. The noble lord had stated, that such an inquiry would be gone into at a future time, while he called upon the House to agree to his propositions of coercion merely upon the authority of the papers before the House. But he could not admit that the papers on the table by any means proved the necessity of the measures alluded to, while the authority of lord Wellesley did not appear in evidence, any more than the grounds upon 122 which it rested. Let the disturbances in Ireland be put down by coercion, if that were sufficient; but he hoped and trusted, that some inquiry would be afterwards gone into with respect to the general state of Ireland, and the best mode of managing its government, with a view to the happiness of the people. The House had been confidently told by the noble marquis that the re-enactment of the insurrection law, with the passing of the Habeas Corpus act, would serve effectually to put down the present disturbances in Ireland. But how could the noble lord rely so much upon the efficacy of laws, which, having been already tried, had proved totally ineffectual to the restoration of tranquillity in Ireland? They had been ineffectual, because, within the long period that had elapsed since the Union was carried, no inquiry had been instituted, no attempt had been made to ascertain or to remedy, the real and general grievances of Ireland. Lord Bacon had observed, that "to allay sedition, you must expel the matter of it." But, he was sorry to say, that no measures were taken to expel the matter of sedition in Ireland. With respect to the proposed suspension of the Habeas Corpus act, he could not help declaring that he saw no necessity or utility for the passing of such a law in the present state of Ireland, there being nothing whatever political in the disturbances which prevailed in Ireland; and having gone to that country immediately after the last session, he had had an opportunity of fully examining the character of those disturbances. The noble marquis must himself be aware, that the suspension of the Habeas Corpus act was a measure applied only to disturbances exclusively political. Upon what grounds, then, did the noble lord introduce it upon this occasion? Now, as to the Insurrection act, without entering into any discussion respecting the necessity of some such measure in the present circumstances of Ireland, he could not admit that, under any circumstances, the measure should be adopted in its present shape. That measure was, indeed, such as to call loudly for some alteration, which might be discussed, and which he thought must be agreed to, in a committee, if the noble lord were not determined to press it through the House with such precipitancy, as to afford only one night for deliberation. If the noble lord would afford due time and opportunity 123 for the consideration of this measure, much of what he felt it necessary to say upon this occasion might be spared. The modification which he proposed in the Insurrection act, and of the necessity of adopting which he thought he could have no difficulty in satisfying the House, related to the mode in which the law was administered—that administration being as different from what was right, and prevalent in this country, as any animal of one species could be different from another. By this act, which created a new offence, the magistrates of the district were armed with a new power, of transporting for seven years any man detected in that offence—which consisted in a man's being found to be absent from home within particular hours of the night, that is, from sun-set to sun-rise. Now, without canvassing the character of this offence at present, he would state that he most decidedly objected to the mode of trying the alleged offender. That mode was, indeed, such as to imply a very clumsy system of legislation, particularly as it served to sow the seeds of perpetual dissention between the magistracy and the population of their respective districts. It was, no doubt, the practice in Ireland, to send a barrister, sometimes a serjeant at law, to assist the magistrates in their deliberation upon such offences; but still the magistrates, who had the power of calling in the aid of juries on such trials if they thought fit, were found uniformly to dispense with the exercise of that power. What must Englishmen, and particularly the English members of that House, think of the constituted tribunal invested with such extraordinary power to transport their fellow-subjects, for seven years, to Botany Bay, without any reference of the case to the consideration of a jury? He had himself attended, as a magistrate, at several sittings of the magistracy of his native county, when engaged in administering this Insurrection act, and he never knew a single instance in which a jury was called in to aid in trying the accused, and the same practice he had reason to believe, prevailed in the county of Tipperary at the meetings of the magistracy. Was not this evil peculiarly to be deplored, especially considering the character and constitution of the magistracy in Ireland? Upon this constitution and character he would say nothing himself, but merely quote the words of the late Mr. G. Ponsonby, who 124 had been lord Chancellor of Ireland, and who had particularly examined the subject. And what were the words of that eminent individual? Why, that he had sound many of them very ignorant, persons who had been waiters at country inns, and frequently in the habit of standing behind the chairs of the grand jury. Upon this subject he should say nothing more, but merely add the expression of his earnest wish that the generality of the magistracy of Ireland bore some resemblance to those of this country. The magistrates of Limerick, who were peculiarly respectable, had no doubt been most meritoriously active in their endeavours to quell the disturbances in that county. He had, indeed, been himself two entire nights out of bed in pursuit of the insurgents, and he could say, that his friend the gallant officer behind him (Captain O'Grady) was most indefatigably active upon the occasion. Yet at a full meeting of the Limerick magistrates, an address to government was agreed to, quite in coincidence with the sentiments which he had expressed with respect to the Insurrection act. The preamble to that address set forth the state of Ireland, which was forcibly depicted; and this preamble was followed by a prayer, that parliament should be immediately assembled, for the purpose of inquiring into the causes and origin of the present disturbances, and devising adequate means for their suppression, and placing the tranquillity of the country upon a permanent basis. The address, adverting to the Insurrection act, described it as a measure well suited to the exigency of the case; but suggested the expediency of modifying the clause with respect to the trial of offences under that act. Such was the substance of the resolutions and the address agreed to by the meeting alluded to; and upon moving for the production of that document, he hoped be should meet no opposition from the noble lord, as it was material to put the House in possession of it, with a view to afford information from an authority best qualified to furnish it. The information of these gentlemen was indeed intitled to the utmost attention with regard to the mode of administering the insurrection law, coming as it did from those who were magistrates themselves. To the representation of those magistrates, ministers, however, did not think proper to attend; for their desire for inquiry was 125 disregarded, while it was proposed to reenact the insurrection law of the 54th of Geo. 3rd, without any modification whatever. The objectionable clause, as these magistrates pronounced it, respecting the mode of administering the law, was, it appeared, still to be retained. But if retained, he would ask any lawyer who heard him, whether, since England had any pretension to the enjoyment of a free constitution, such a tribunal as this act would create was ever before known to exist? There was this very material difference between such a tribunal and a special commission, that a judge of the land presided at the latter, who came into the country without any local prejudice to gratify, and left the country, after performing his duty, without engendering or promoting any local dissentions. But such could not be the case with respect to the mode of administering the Insurrection act, for the magistrates who exercised its powers must become odious to the people around them, or serve to plant eternal discord between the magistracy and the peasantry. It could hardly be doubted, indeed, that any magistrate who should transport a peasant for the offence created by the Insurrection act, would be but too likely to have his person and residence pointed out as objects of jealousy or revenge to the children and connections of the unfortunate transport. Thus a remedy was applied, accompanied by a danger which must long continue, whatever might be the effect of the remedy. The remedy was indeed problematical, while the danger was certain. The hon. and learned gentleman stated, that he should be as ready as any man to invest government with any powers necessary to put down insurrection; but he could not accede to the establishment of a power that went beyond the exigency of the case. It could not be forgotten, however, that the remedy proposed by the noble marquis was but temporary, while the evil which it was meant to meet was permanent. Among the great causes of the popular discontent and disturbance in Ireland, the tithe system was notoriously among the first. But the mode of collecting the revenue was also a prolific source of discontent and violence; and especially that part of the law which referred to the distilleries. The chancellor of the exchequer must, he was sure, from his peculiar feeling and habits of thinking, be quite 126 shocked to learn that one-fourth of the convictions which took place in Ireland arose out of the distillery laws. Such certainly was the fact during the last four years; the whole of the convictions in Ireland being 16,000, while those respecting the distilleries amounted to 4,000. Therefore he must take leave to say, that the chancellor of the exchequer was the most efficient ally of captain Rock.—There was one objection, which he would again press upon the attention of the House, against the precipitate adoption of the measures proposed by the noble lord; namely, that one of those measures was quite imperfect, as he thought he had fully shown; while as to the suspension of the Habeas Corpus act, he would appeal to any English gentleman who heard him, whether he would agree to the enactment of such a measure for any part of England, upon such documents as had been produced, or such arguments as had been adduced, by the noble marquis? He called, then, upon the members for England, to deal with Ireland as they would with their own country. They would recollect, he hoped, that they were representatives for Ireland as well as for England, particularly as the Irish members never forgot that they were as much bound to attend to the interests of England as to those of their own country. He called then upon, nay he implored, the English members not to allow the constitution to be unnecessarily violated or suspended with respect to Ireland; for, if they did, they must prepare their minds for the consequences. If the English members, indeed, allowed ministers to contract the habit of suspending the constitution, or trifle with its principles, their fate could easily be predicted, and there was every reason to apprehend that that House would soon cease to be any thing like a free representative assembly.
§ Captain O'Grady
said, he wished to state his grounds for voting in favour of the proposed measures. He had been residing in a county since the last session which was by far the most disturbed of any in Ireland. He lamented that disturbance, and the circumstances which had contributed to its origin and progress; but, for many reasons, he was of opinion that the insurrection act was necessary to its suppression, though the strongest measure that could be devised without amelioration would not effectually answer the purpose. The disturbance, he was con- 127 vinced had no reference to politics or religion generally, but was chiefly connected with local circumstances, the result of which was rapidly spreading, and must be met with vigour, or incalculable mischief would ensue. It was a mistake to suppose that the peasantry of Ireland were not acquainted with the power of the laws, and that of the magistracy: they knew that power well, but, under existing circumstances, they had the means of eluding it. When magistrates took out the military to enforce obedience to the laws, it was seldom that they could meet with the violators of them. They were in the habit of assembling and carrying on their depredations in small parties, and in various places; they acted like banditti—they went out in darkness, selected the places which they supposed least defended for their exploits, and it was almost impossible for the magistrates and the soldiery to catch them. If, indeed, a magistrate had the good fortune to fall in with them, and take them in arms, he might confine them for a time, but he could do nothing more; he could not rid the country or them; they might come out again in six months upon the magistrates, who had renderd themselves obnoxious by their attempts to put them down. He was satisfied the existing laws were not sufficient to procure tranquillity. The House was told that the first meeting of the magistrates of the county of Limerick relative to those disturbances was not public: he would tell them why it could not be public. The fact was, that the country gentlemen were afraid, by public advertisement, to acquaint the disturbers of the peace, that they would, on a certain day and hour, abandon their houses to the mercy of the populace. The meeting was held without public advertisement, and could not therefore be a public meeting. The magistrates assembled and did what had been detailed to the House; and in praying for the revival of the insurrection act, they wished the clause to be dispensed with which took cases out of the trial by the ordinary jury. But it appeared that the ordinary laws were inadequate to the repression of those disorders. The special commission had no effect in intimidating their perpetrators; for, on the very night on which the judges arrived in the town to open the commission, a soldier who had straggled from his party was knocked down and deprived of his arms. But, in speaking of the power of the 128 special commission, it was only necessary to inform the House, that a panic had, seized the witnesses for the Crown. Those who were to act as jurymen were also intimidated; and excuses were returned, stating that they were afraid to leave their homes and families, lest all which they held most dear should be sacrificed in their absence. The consequence was, that if the gentlemen who were usually sworn as grand jurors, and never before acted as a petty jury, had not come forward and served as petty jurors, it would have been impossible to have found a jury to put the commission in force. When the magistrates, therefore, saw the inefficacy of the existing laws, they assembled in the jury room to petition for the revival of the Insurrection act in its full powers, which was accordingly done. This became the more imperative, because information to convict offenders was not to be procured. Every gentleman might get a certain degree of information, but he defied any one to obtain sworn informations. He had himself made great exertions to get informations on oath, but could not succeed; the deponent would state his belief, but would not swear or sign papers which would make him a witness. It was certain that the peasantry had now established a system of terror in that part of the country, and gentlemen could not go to bed but under an expectation of being disturbed with the report of musketry before morning. Under the existing laws, even if a magistrate came to the house of a peasant by night, and found that he was from home, and if he waited until his return and saw evident marks of a night's fatigue, yet he had no power to take him into custody. If he asked the man what he had been about, he might answer as an English peasant would —"what is that to you?" Where, then, was there any law to prevent those men from going out by night, and from marauding, murdering, and pillaging as they pleased? He thought the gentry of the disturbed part of Ireland, the best judges of the necessity of the proposed measures. They had, in the first instance, prayed for a modified insurrection act, and the increased urgency of events caused them to pray for an insurrection act without modification.—He did not mean then to go into a detail of the grievances under which the people of Ireland suffered; but he would take the opportunity of stating, that there was no man more anxious than he was to 129 get rid of that intolerable nuisance, the tithe system. He did not wish to put a shilling out of the pocket of the clergy; but he was convinced that if this system was continued for any long time, its result would be most ruinous; and he feared it would produce the destruction of more property than its own. Whoever would bring forward his mind and labour to get rid of that system, would deserve the thanks of his country. He was far from thinking that conciliation towards the people of Ireland should not be adopted: he thought it would be well that an anxiety should be shown on the part of England for their social welfare and moral improvement. Conciliation had always been hailed by Ireland as a blessing; and not less so now, after the hopes which they had been led to entertain. He begged leave to state in conclusion, that in voting for the present measures, he was not actuated by either irritation or fear, but went upon the ground of absolute necessity. He thought that the measures proposed were those of humanity towards the unfortunate people, as in all probability they would save them from the bayonet or the gallows. He hoped the House would entrust the government with the powers required, which he had not the smallest doubt would be well and usefully applied.
§ Mr. G. Dawson
rose, principally with a view to notice the observations of a right hon. baronet, respecting his right hon. friend, the Secretary of State for the home department (Mr. Peel). The right hon. baronet had referred to a resolution proposed by him in 1817, for an inquiry into the evils with which Ireland was then afflicted, and which resolution had been opposed by his right hon. friend. The right hon. baronet must have forgotten that his right hon. friend had proposed several Committees in the course of that very year, all having for their object the relief of Ireland from the subjects of complaint. He need only mention the Committee relating to Distillation, and that respecting Grand Jury Presentments. And, because his right hon. friend had, at the end of a session, declined adopting a sweeping motion of the right hon. baronet he was now accused of an indisposition to remove the evils alluded to. He was unable to judge, from the speech of the right hon. baronet, whether he intended to support the present bill or to oppose it, but it certainly would be most extraordinary if he did not support it. He had, in 130 1817, supported the Insurrection bill, in consequence of a single meeting which had taken place some time before; and, surely, he would not resist the bill now, when nearly the whole south of Ireland was in a state of insurrection.
§ Sir H. Parnell
said, he had lost no opportunity to collect information on the nature and extent of the disturbances in Ireland, and he had come to the decision, that nothing short of the measures proposed could put them down: these measures had become absolutely necessary. He would not at present enter into a detail of the circumstances which justified them; but he must say, that the papers referred to by the noble lord, did not go to the full explanation of the extent of the evil. In voting for these measures, he begged to be understood that lie did not agree with the noble lord as to the condition on which these measures of severity were: to be passed. He thought some time ought to be given to an investigation of the causes which had led to such disastrous results. He was quite satisfied that whatever success attended the proposed measures in the first instance, it would be of a temporary character. If permanent tranquillity was to be obtained, the House must go into an early inquiry as to the circumstances which have led to the existing state of tumult and disorder.
said, he did not concur with the noble lord in thinking that strong measures, to the extent which he had demanded, were necessary to the suppression of the disorders in Ireland. It had been allowed on all hands, that they did not originate in politics or religion. Their origin was in local distress; and this he conceived was a reason why magistrates should not be impowered to act according to the terms of the Insurrection act. Those magistrates were not so often great landed proprietors as middlemen: and these men would, in case the Insurrection act passed, have, in the capacity of jurors, the power of transporting insolvent tenants—a power with which they ought not to be entrusted.
§ Mr. Grattan
was persuaded, that coercive measures of every description would; in the end, be found ineffectual. They might bang and shoot the people, but the evil would still go on; and as for giving increased power to the magistracy he had no hesitation in saying, that constituted as the present magistracy were; he should prefer seeing a kill for de- 131 priving them of all they had already. To such a bill he would give his hearty support.
Sir F. Burdett
expressed his surprise at the conduct of the noble lord, who, having for upwards of twenty years had the opportunity of knowing the real state of Ireland, of ascertaining the numerous evils which pressed upon her, and of becoming acquainted with their causes, had nevertheless neglected all inquiry, and delayed every remedy, until now that he called upon the House to put down by force, those mischiefs which he had thus negligently suffered to accumulate. He confessed lie did not see why the House should consent to go on with measures, which were thus used for a time, and then laid aside until they again became necessary. He was surprised that the noble lord should have the face to get up and call for the repetition of measures of dreadful oppression, without giving the legislature an opportunity of inquiring into the nature and origin of the evils for which these palliatives were required. Was it to be tolerated, that Ireland should know nothing of this country, but through bloodshed and the gibbet? He for one did not think that the evils of Ireland were to be remedied by such means; and that this was the prevalent opinion in the House, he was convinced from what he had heard on the present occasion. He perceived that every member who gave his support to the proposed measures, had done so with considerable reluctance, as if convinced that the remedy of the evil did not lie in them. He was glad to witness this sympathy, and he trusted those gentlemen would act up to its suggestions, by compelling the noble lord to do what he had so long neglected. It was said that the disturbances in Ireland did not arise from any political feelings. He firmly believed they did not. It was impossible that greater affection towards the sovereign could be evinced, or that a stronger sense could be entertained of the compliment paid them, than was shown by the Irish people in the recent visit of his majesty to their country. This feeling was not limited—it was general throughout the island. That visit had he believed, done some good; but it was impossible that his majesty should work miracles. Had ministers taken advantage of the royal visit, as they ought to have done—had they instituted measures for 132 ascertaining the causes of the evils which, for many years had afflicted that country, and taken pains to apply the proper remedy, the House might have been spared the painful task which they were now called upon to perform. But, supposing the mischiefs existing in Ireland to be as bad as they were represented—still he would ask, what remedy was there in the suspension of the Habeas Corpus act? Surely the government had already the power as much as it would then have, of arresting persons on suspicion. The suspension of the Habeas Corpus act did not give them more; for under that they had no authority to arrest any man without fair ground of suspicion. He maintained that the government ought to be ashamed of this conduct; and he attributed the whole of it to the system of the noble lord, who had suffered those evils to increase, and now came down with great complacency to ask the House to trust his incapable hands with a power which he had before grossly abused. It was said, that the exercise of this great power was to be confided to the magistrates. He was not sufficiently acquainted with Ireland to be a competent judge in this respect; but, from every thing which he had heard in the course of the present discussion, the magistrates were the last persons to whom such a power should be confided. A noble lord had stated, that, before the month of October last, ministers were made acquainted with the disturbed state of Ireland, and that they were at that time intreated to call parliament together to consider of the subject. Why had they not done so? Instead of this, they suffered the mischief to reach its present intolerable height, and then came down for fresh powers. Now, with respect to a remedy, he had no hesitation in saying, that the noble lord at the head of the Irish government, from his great talents and character—and his feelings being so much in unison on the subject of their distresses with those of the Irish people—was of all persons the best calculated to fill that office. He would much prefer seeing extraordinary powers put into the hands of that noble lord for a time, than assent to the present scandalous and disgraceful measure. The noble lord would well know how to apply that power, and would exercise it discreetly for the benefit of his countrymen; and he (Sir F. B.) would put more confidence in the efficacy of his measures, when acting on his own cha- 133 racter, and from his own feeling, than he could possibly have, when he was acting as the organ of the present administration. He would admit that acts of great outrage had been committed, and that their repetition ought to be prevented. In common with all others, he condemned them; yet it should be known that they were not the result of deep and notorious wickedness, but arose from the pressure of such accumulated miseries, that no man, who lifted up his arm to prevent the mischief; but must deplore the fate of the unfortunate beings who had been driven to its commission. The hon. baronet again adverted to what he declared to be gross neglect in the noble lord (Londonderry), who had been a main instrument, in effecting the union between the two countries, and thereby depriving Ireland of that which might perhaps have worked her salvation; but who had, during a series of years suffered those evils to increase, and taken no one step to prevent them. For the present condition of Ireland, he agreed with the noble marquis, that the only temporary remedy was a large military force. But more, much more, remained to be done. Let his majesty's ministers take into their most serious consideration the state of that country. Let them come down to parliament with whatever plans of amelioration might, in their opinion, be best calculated to remedy the evils which had so long existed in that unhappy country. It would be presumption in any individual member of the House to imagine himself sufficiently aware of the various causes in which those evils originated. What was the government of the country for? Was it merely to attend at the House of Commons for the purpose of answering inquiries on such a subject? Unless ministers entered into such a consideration, and with such views, he was at a loss to conceive how they would be able to apologize for their gross and criminal negligence. With respect to the measure now proposed, he would rather that ministers would declare that Ireland was in such a state, that justice could not be administered without the temporary presence of a strong military force; and he said this the more readily, because he knew no man to whose discretion he would the more confidently intrust such a power, than to the noble marquis at the head of the Irish government. The temporary use, therefore, of a strong military force, with a perfect un- 134 derstanding that the state of Ireland should be taken into the most serious consideration, he would not oppose; but he would not consent to be led blindfolded into the adoption of acts, the consequence of which no one could foresee. If we might judge from experience, they would increase the dissentions of Ireland, instead of re-establishing peace and safety. Again, he said, that the only remedy which appeared to him to be suited to the existing state of things was, the temporary application of a strong military force, accompanied with the avowal of a determination to go into an inquiry, with the view of remedying all the evils which appeared to be capable of remedy.
§ Mr. Abercromby
begged to state shortly the reasons by which his vote would be influenced. In the first place, no sufficient ground had been laid for the suspension of the Habeas Corpus act. To a large proportion of the people of Ireland, the noble marquis had himself admitted, that the suspension of the Habeas Corpus act would be inapplicable. The higher and the educated classes were, by the noble marquis's own assertion, loyal; and yet parliament was now called upon to suspend the liberties of the people of Ireland in a way that would affect equally the loyal and disloyal, the Protestant and the Catholic, the inhabitant of the North and of the South of the Island. In the total absence of all proof of the necessity of such a proceeding, no conscientious man could, in his opinion, vote for it. He confessed himself very much disappointed at the meagreness of the papers which had been laid on the table. When the noble lord described them as dispatches from marquis Wellesley, he expected they would be found to contain a comprehensive view of the causes of the present discontents. Instead of that, they resembled a newspaper journal of events. In no part of them did the noble marquis state the principles, the motives, and the views of the discontented. But the noble lord opposite contended, that nothing further should be asked after his declaration that the country was in rebellion. That there were very serious disturbances in various parts of Ireland was too manifest; but they were not of a character to which the common acceptation of the term rebellion could be applied. On the contrary, he understood, by recent accounts, from persons on whom he could rely, that the insurrection in Ireland, especially near Cork, 135 had almost ceased. And besides, there was nothing in the papers on the table to show that the passing of the Insurrection act was the remedy most desirable in the existing state of affairs. What was the remedy for the evil pointed out by the magistrates of the southern district of the county of Cork, in their memorial to the lord lieutenant? Was it the Insurrection act? No such thing. What those magistrates wanted was, an increased military force; and, unquestionably, if the proceedings in Ireland were really rebellious a large military force was the true and only remedy that ought to be applied. Before passing such an act as that now proposed, parliament ought to be quite sure of what were the defects of the existing law, and whether the new measure would afford an adequate remedy for those defects. He would ask any hon. member to declare, if he knew where the present law failed; or if he conceived that the passing of the Insurrection act would supply the deficiences of the present law. He had the authority of the learned judge who addressed the grand jury in the disturbed district of Limerick, for saying, all that was required was, that the law as it now existed should be enforced. No one could doubt that, in the present state of Ireland, the greatest vigilance was indispensable. He was not one to undervalue the danger; but he had yet to learn that the present proposition was calculated to avert it. It was with some surprise he had heard the noble marquis declare that they must not allow themselves to be intimidated. Certainly not. But, were they because they would not allow themselves to be intimidated, to refrain from being just? The noble marquis's argument was not only that the Irish must bear the Insurrection act, but that they must also bear, that not a single step was taken by the legislature towards conciliation or a redress of their grievances. If he were disposed to press this point maliciously, he might say, that this declaration was made by the noble marquis for the purpose of obstructing, throughout the present session, any proposition having for its object the amelioration of the state of the Irish people. No measure favourable to the Catholics—no other measure generally beneficial to Ireland could be brought forward. All the expectations so fondly cherished from the king's visit to that country—all the hopes entertained in consequence of the appointment of the noble 136 marquis now at the head of the Irish government must be foregone. Such a statement was not calculated to inspire confidence in the noble lord and his colleagues; especially when their Conduct towards Ireland in times of tranquillity was considered. He could not vote for the renewal of the Insurrection act, unless it was clearly shown that it would be a speedy and efficient remedy for the existing evil.
§ Mr. Hume
wished to ask the noble marquis a question upon the subject on which all the House were united. He could assure the noble marquis, that he had never heard a single person who did not concur in opinion, as to the necessity of taking into serious consideration the system of tithes in Ireland. The tithe system, both in this country and in Ireland, had for many months past occupied his most serious attention. He had carefully examined every parliamentary document connected with the subject; and he asked the noble marquis, who now proposed measures of coercion with respect to Ireland, whether he would support a motion for a committee to inquire into the tithe system and the church establishment of Ireland? He offered the noble marquis and the House his services on this subject, the importance of which was announced by every post and every paper from that country. He wished, therefore, to know whether he should receive the noble lord's support in the motion which, at a very early period, he should feel it his duty to make on the subject?
Mr. D. Browne
said, that he should not feel himself justified in voting for so monstrous a measure as the Insurrection act, except upon the most clear and overpowering necessity. If it should be the pleasure of the House to pass it, he trusted they would immediately take into consideration the grievances by which Ireland had so long been afflicted.
Mr. C. Grant
felt himself under the painful and melancholy necessity of acquiescing in the proposition before the House. It was about a year and a half since he had the honour of stating to the House his sentiments respecting the act in question. Those sentiments he stilt retained. He was as hostile as ever to making such an act a part of the permanent system under which Ireland was to be governed. He maintained this opinion; but he also maintained, as he always had done, that an exigency might 137 arise to render such a measure necessary. He had never argued that an extraordinary case might not occur, in which he and others might be called upon to sacrifice the principle which they loved, to the pressing demand of the time. On the occurrence of such a case, neither policy nor good sense would justify a resistance to severe necessity. It was, therefore, that he felt compelled, however unwillingly, and with whatever melancholy feeling, to accede to the present proposition. He knew well what was due to those engaged in the government of Ireland. Experience had taught him the difficulties, and the awful responsibility, of those who were intrusted with the care of the lives and property of the people of Ireland; and, therefore, although he frankly avowed, that when he left Ireland there did not appear to him to be any necessity for recommending such a proposition, yet he knew that since that period a different spirit had arisen in that country. He was deeply interested in the peace and prosperity of Ireland, and he could not shut his eyes to the evils with which it was necessary to contend in that country. Those evils had recently spread in the most alarming manner. He confessed that on this subject he did not consider the papers laid on the table by the noble lord to be satisfactory; and had it not been for other information, and particularly some intelligence which reached him that day, he should not have considered that a sufficient ground had been laid for the proceeding. He now granted those powers with the greater willingness, because they were to be intrusted to a nobleman whose general intentions towards Ireland fully concurred with his own—a nobleman, who, he was sure, would not allow any temporary circumstances to thwart the generous views which he entertained towards that ill-fated, but high-spirited people. He was quite confident that the noble personage to whom he alluded would never have asked for any extraordinary powers without deeming them absolutely necessary. He was quite sure that having obtained those powers, he would use them with prudence and humanity, and would feel stimulated to exert himself the more for the welfare and happiness of his fellow-countrymen. The government of Ireland required the utmost vigour, wisdom, prudence and humanity—qualities eminently conspicuous in the noble marquis. An 138 additional reason for the vote which he should that night give, was, his conviction that the noble marquis was as hostile as himself to making such measures a part of the permanent system of government in Ireland. Against any such intention he now solemnly protested. He voted for the bill only for the present session. He voted for it only because the exigency of the case demanded it. He voted for it only because he trusted that, before the close of the session, parliament would enter into a serious and extensive consideration of the general state of Ireland. It was his wish that that should be done even when he was in office; and on this subject he appealed to those who knew him, if it was not his declared intention to bring forward in the present session some plan for ameliorating the condition of that great and interesting country. If any thing could prove more unequivocally than another the necessity of such a proceeding, it was the proposition which it had been found indispensable to make that night, He would not now enter into a detail of the various evils which required redress. Of those, one of the chief was the state of the tithes, than which nothing had more materially contributed to the deterioration of Ireland. In his opinion, the whole of the tithe system required complete revision; but he would not enter on that subject at the present moment. He supported the proposed measures principally on account of the confidence which he reposed in the high character of the marquis Wellesley.
objected to the proposed measures, because he saw nothing in the papers laid before the House to call for them. There was not a single sentence in the communication of the lord lieutenant which could be construed into a call for any extraordinary powers, much less for such frightful and oppressive measures as those now before the House. Until he came into the House that evening, lie was not aware of the powers conferred by the Insurrection act: but, having heard the nature of that act, as well as the description of magistrates to whom its operation was to be entrusted, he felt himself bound to oppose it. He would ask the House, how they could entrust to such men, as the Irish magistrates were described to be, the power of at once transporting any individual who was found absent from his house between sunset and sun-rise? He was ready to go as 139 far as any man in supporting every measure necessary to preserve the tranquillity of the sister country; but then he wished to have the necessity of the case fully established. He thought the most effectual remedy would be, by sending an additional number of military, and, at the same time, giving the lord lieutenant additional powers to repress the disturbances which existed in several parts of the Country.
§ Mr. Brougham
said, he could assure his right hon. friend opposite (Mr. Grant) that it would have given him great satisfaction if he could have agreed with him in the view he had taken of this question, especially as his right hon. friend was informed by long experience, and enlightened by large and liberal views of our true policy towards Ireland—views which did him immortal honour, which had conferred great benefits upon the kingdom, and which would have conferred still greater, had his official residence there been prolonged. Indeed, he felt that the impression which his right hon. friend's speech had made upon the House was only to be exceeded by the favourable impression which he had left with the inhabitants of the sister kingdom. He was happy, however, to reflect, that the difference between himself arid his right hon. friend was not great. It extended only to the vote, and not to the principle on which that vote was to be given. He agreed with his right hon. friend, that any confidence which might be demanded for the noble marquis, at present at the bead of time Irish government, was strictly his due, considering his high talent, his energy as a governor, or the enlightened principles on which he had commenced, and no doubt would continue, his administration. It was because the proposed measures were not indicative of confidence in the noble marquis—it was because they did not apply to the evil the remedy which was required—it was because, if they were necessary (which had been loudly asserted, thought not satisfactorily proved), he would much rather arm him with such powers by a specific vote of confidence, than apply a measure which was not the specific remedy for the mischiefs now devastating Ireland, that he felt himself obliged to withhold his concurrence from his right hon. friend. He would briefly state his objections to the measure in question; and first, as to the manner of hurrying it through all its stages in one 140 night. It was only by accident that this had not been done. The delay which must now inevitably take place, had not been granted to gain time for deliberation, or to allow knowledge to be acquired from other sources by those who are totally ignorant of the state of Ireland, except so far as they had been informed of it by the papers then before the House; but it was attributable merely to the engrossment of the bill not having been completed, that they were to have another opportunity of discussing its merits. Had the noble lord a Night to treat the House and the country in this manner? Why was no remedy proposed at an earlier period? According to the statements of a noble lord, the state of the country had for some time been such, that much mischief would have been prevented had parliament been called together in October. What was to be the system which they must pursue in future? Was the prevention of crime never to form a part of their policy? Were they never to be called upon to avert crime, but always to punish it? Were they to go on thus, until they came to a state of things which all must deplore, but which none could redress? He repeated, that if ministers had acted with a due regard to the situation of the sister country, they would have assembled parliament four or five weeks ago. But no! this had not been done. Nay, notwithstanding the present declared necessity for this measure—notwithstanding that the omission of a mechanical process only prevented it from being passed through all its stages in the course of one evening—ministers, with ail their load of information about them, did not take the ordinary precaution of coming down and making a House yesterday. He was aware that it was the duty of every member to be present; but it was the peculiar duty of ministers, who had a measure of such vital importance to propose, to see that no unnecessary delay should take place. The result of their carelessness was, that the House was prevented from having a single day's consideration of the question. He felt it necessary to say, with his right hon. friend near him (sir J. Newport), that he could not support the proposed measure. He hoped he should not for a moment be supposed to give countenance to acts of lawless and blood-thirsty violence. He was of opinion that, if severe measures must be resorted to, it would be better to increase the mi- 141 litary force, and at the same time to give large and dictatorial powers to the marquis Wellesley, in whose wisdom and moderation he felt inclined to place the most implicit confidence. But, the more he looked at the present measure, the more be felt convinced, not only of its inconsistency, but of its inefficacy. It was a measure which went to repose confidence, not in the lord lieutenant, but in the magistrates of Ireland. It would be only necessary that two or three of those magistrates, should, upon their own views of the subject, memorialize the Irish government, in order to suspend all law; to annihilate the Constitution, and thereby place at their own disposal, the liberties and properties, the safety and comforts of a considerable proportion of their fellow-countrymen. Now, he would seriously ask whether gentlemen perceived the extent of the power which they were thus entrusting to the hands of others? They gave to magistrates (such as they had been described), a right to enter into the most retired and delicate part of any dwelling-house, and after a reasonable time, if refused admittance, a power to force the chambers even of females; and should any person be found absent upon this domiciliary visit, without reason being assigned, he was liable to seven years transportation. And all this they did without the interference of a grand jury by bill—without the petty jury by their verdict—and without allowing the aggrieved party any satisfactory appeal. Was not this giving a large power to magistrates—was it not giving a frightful discretion to a set of men, who were acted upon by the party feuds and jealousies of their neighbourhood? They ought to be the more cautious, too, when they reflected that, in the event of any complained-of violation of the law being brought into court, the judge had the power of deciding, that there was probable ground of proceeding on the part of the officer; and then, though a verdict might be given for the plaintiff, it would carry no more than sixpence damages, and no costs. But, who were the persons to whom the exercise of this power was to be entrusted? The House had heard the description already given of them, by some of their own countrymen. They were not proprietors of land, but middle men; they were men who were looked upon as the scourges of the people in lay matters, in the same manner as 142 the tithe-proctors were in ecclesiastical matters. This was a proved and incontrovertible fact. Nay, such was the carelessness with which persons were permitted to get into the commission, that a servant-man, who had been for some time a waiter at an inn, and who had stood behind the chairs of God knew how many gentlemen, had actually become a magistrate. The hon. member for the county of Wicklow had, with his hereditary love for Ireland and Irishmen, said, that, instead of giving them new powers, they had better bring in a bill for abolishing the existing magistracy altogether; and the hon. member for Limerick, whose speech, on this occasion, would be long remembered and admired, not only for the valuable information it contained, but for the constitutional principles upon which it was founded, had observed, that while the magistracy of Ireland remained on its present footing it was no figure of speech to say, that justice was bought and sold in that country. Were these the men to whom parliament was prepared to give additional powers? Were these the men to whom, without stopping to make any inquiry, they were at once to surrender up the constitution and liberties of the people of Ireland. It had been said, that no greater encouragement could be afforded to the disaffected than to resist I the adoption of these measures of severity. The imputation was unjust. They who thought with him, that the proposed measures were severe and inadequate, were ready to invest the proper authorities with ample powers; but they complained that when ministers came forward with such propositions, they took no pains to connect with them, contingent on the suppression of the present disturbance, measures calculated to heal deep-rooted animosities, and allay the heart-burnings which existed in that misgoverned country. What else but disorganization could be expected in a society where misgovernment was never checked, until its results were demonstrated in the open violence of rebellion. He hoped the noble lord had made an exaggerated statement; but on his own sheaving, the state of that country exhibited the melancholy proofs of unjust and impolitic measures. With a population divided on religious subjects, they had a Church establishment greater than that of any Catholic country on the continent, and yet no religious instruction was given by that church to one-tenth of 143 the people—nay, not even to any thing like that number; for the pluralities were numerous, the clergy were non-residents. With a non-resident clergy to reconcile the people to the tithe-proctor, however,—with an absentee gentry to reconcile the middleman to the cultivator, the only astonishment was, that the parliament should so long stand by without affording one single remedy—without taking one single step to stand between the natural relation of causes and effects.
It was no wonder that such results should attend such a state of things. The only wonder was, how parliament could have looked on so long, and not have taken a single step to interpose between the cause and the necessary effect. It was clear that his majesty's government had planned no measure of conciliation; and the noble lord had plainly avowed, that, while things remained in their present agitated state, it was no time to talk of recommending particular measures to the consideration of the Irish government. Did the House bear in mind the very principle upon which the present ministers had accepted place, and the compromise by which they had been since kept together? Was it not notorious, that so scrupulously delicate upon every question connected with Irish policy—so nicely balanced and trimmed was this cabinet, that if any one of its members retired from office, the successor was selected, not with reference to his ability to fill the station, but on the understanding that, with respect to Irish questions, he should hold the exact opinions of his predecessors? Any question bearing upon Ireland—the question of Irish Tithes, still more the important question of Catholic Emancipation falling amongst them, was certain to produce an explosion. They had heard much of the terrifying abuses of the tithe system in that country—the fatal source of disorder and of oppression; and he was glad to hear his hon. friend put a question to the noble marquis on that subject. Great as was the industry of his hon. friend, and powerful as were the exertions which he had made with respect to other questions of public importance, still he felt that unless the question was taken up by ministers, any attempts to correct the evil made by gentlemen on his side of the House, would be so slow in their effects, as to be nearly ineffectual. The noble lord had drawn a most melancholy 144 picture of the state of Ireland, He had described one part of that country to be in a state of open rebellion. Now, either that statement was exaggerated or it was not. If it was exaggerated, then there clearly would be no ground for the present measure. An augmentation of the military force of the country would be quite sufficient to put down the public disturbance. If, on the other hand, the whole of the population had become tainted, then he would appeal to the House to consider how far the present act was likely to remedy the evil; for, after all the enactments they could make, the magistracy would not be able to visit every house, and to seize on every person who should be found abroad after sun-set, and therefore the military must be called in at last. He should like to know why the military might not be called in, in the first instance? It would not produce any additional expense to the country, and it would save to the constitution the irreparable expense of so fatal an inroad on its most sacred principles. One word as to the suspension of the Habeas Corpus act. The noble lord had declared that neither political nor religious animosities were mixed up in the present disturbances. If, then, a power were given to imprison without trial, it was a measure wholly inapplicable to the alleged mischief; for the Suspension act was only applicable to cases of political or religious dissention, when some violent political or religious agitator was stalking abroad, and when it was desirable that the government should have the power of removing him from the center of his operations. What, then, would the natural consequence be when the people found such an act as this passed, which alone was applicable to political or religious contests? They would infer that it was directed against their leaders—men who probably enjoyed that rank among them from the part they took in their religious or political controversies; and that was the sure way to provoke and embody in the disturbances that from which the noble lord admitted they were now happily free; and to promote that exasperating evil, which happily did not at the present moment deform the condition of society in Ireland.
The Marquis of Londonderry
said, that the course which the hon. and learned gentleman had taken, imposed upon him the necessity of stating a few reasons in 145 support of the present measure. From what had been already said, it was clear that the bill, if at all necessary, should be passed without delay; and here he would observe, that the difficulty in the early part of the evening, with respect to the engrossing, having been removed, there was no obstacle to the bill passing through its several stages that night. The hon. and learned member had found fault with ministers for having, with the knowledge of all the facts, delayed the introduction of the measure. But if this proved any thing, it proved that ministers were anxious, as long as possible, to avoid the introduction of coercive measures. He had hoped that the introduction of the military, the appointment of a special commission to the disturbed districts, would have had the desired effect. The insurrection (if that term suited the hon. and learned gentleman better than rebellion) had at last assumed a new character, and required the enforcement of a more prompt and exemplary measure. The bills had been so often passed, that no delay was necessary to enable the House more perfectly to comprehend their provisions. The only question, then, was, as to their expediency. Their necessity he had already affirmed; be deplored it as much as any man, and be admitted that they were great inroads upon the constitution. It was said that they were unaccompanied by any measures of conciliation, and an inference was raised, that government was averse to the due consideration of such measures as the state of Ireland required. He denied that inference, and declared his readiness to bear and discuss whatever propositions the right hon. baronet, or any other member, had to propose for the relief of that country; and as to the Catholic question, the hon. and learned gentleman had talked of the cabinet, as if it presented a novel spectacle in being divided upon that great subject. Did he not know that the cabinet which had preceded them had been also, though not in the same degree, divided on that subject? The hon. and learned gentleman's discovery had not, therefore, the claim of novelty upon that point. He was perfectly ready to discuss the Catholic question whenever it was introduced; but he hoped and believed that the Catholics themselves were not disposed to adopt a tone of menace, or to seek, in moments of civil tumult, the attainment of their claims. It was a little 146 whimsical to mark the constitutional feeling which the learned gentleman, and those who thought with him, adopted to suit their own purposes; they talked of balancing constitutional principles in the cabinet; and yet these modern Whigs were ready to create a dictator, and invest him with the full exercise of those powers which they were at the same time ready to deny to an act of' the legislature, setting forth the evil, and specifying the remedy, and restraining and limiting the scope and period of its operation. He had the utmost deference and respect for the marquis Wellesley; but he was not prepared to erect him, or any other human being, into a dictator, as the Whigs of the modern school were so ready to do. The good people of this land wanted no dictator; they preferred the letter of the law, however harsh, to the will of any individual, however gifted.—He now begged to say a few words in answer to the bill of indictment which the hon. member for Limerick had put forth against the magistrates of Ireland. God forbid that he should deny that there were in that, as in other countries, persons not fitted for the situation; but he declared most solemnly, that he had heard for the first time that night, that justice was sold for money, and that the decision of magistrates could be purchased by bribes. He had, indeed, heard it brought forward more than once, that magistrates were prejudiced, were inclined to favour one party above another; but he had never heard until that night, that any man holding the commission of the peace, degraded his station and his character by accepting bribes. He never would assent to the assertion, that the magistrates of Ireland were a degraded body, unfit to be entrusted with the administration of the laws. As far as his knowledge extended of the Irish magistrates, and he was well acquainted with the magistrates in the north of Ireland, their conduct by no means justified the imputations thrown out against them. They were men of respectable station. He knew not what the hon. gentleman meant exactly by middlemen; but the magistrates of the country must, by the very terms of the patent, be possessed of freehold property. He could by no means agree with hon. gentlemen with respect to several clauses of the bill. That clause which gave the power of domiciliary visits: visits to the part of the House where females might be reposing, had 147 given an opportunity for the eloquent observations of gentlemen; but those were extreme cases, and were not fairly stated. It had been also argued, that a man found abroad after sun-set, was for that act alone to be transported. But that was not the fact: a man found abroad after a certain hour was indeed liable to be brought before a magistrate, and bound to give a rational account of his conduct; and if he should not be able to give a full explanation of his conduct, he would undoubtedly be liable to the penalties of the law. In fact, the law would only throw the onus of proof upon the accused. He knew that that was a sort of law which was not to be approved of, and the necessity of it he much deplored; but let it not be said that every one found abroad after sun-set was, without trial or inquiry of any kind, to be sent off to Botany Bay. Such an assertion was a gross misrepresentation of the law. The administration of the law was not left solely to the magistrates; there were strong correctives in that respect. If the magistrates were ever so corrupt, still they could not commit oppression upon individuals; for the law required, not merely the presence of magistrates, but also that a king's counsel and a serjeant-at-law should preside, and that the assistant barrister of the county should be also present. And if the magistrates, and even the assistant barrister should be found corrupt and unjust, the king's serjeant, had, by the bill, the power to supersede their judgment, and to lay the case before the lord lieutenant, before whom an appeal lay. Such was the state of the law: it was not a state of things under which he would wish to pass the remainder of his days: he hoped to live to see that law repealed, and Ireland restored to tranquillity; but, at the present moment, whilst the rebel stalked abroad, whilst he was actually in the field, whilst neither the life nor property of any honest man was safe, could parliament hesitate to deny protection to the loyal and well-disposed? With respect to the other law, he had a still stronger objection to it than to that to which he had just applied himself; for if there was one provision of the law which it would go most to his heart to infringe upon, it was that which protected the liberty of the subject. He agreed, that where disturbance and rebellion raged, it was not to be arrested by the suspension act; but it other parts more tranquil, where the emis- 148 saries of rebellion might be found corrupting and enflaming the people, as was the case in England some years ago, the suspension bill would be the most proper power in the hands of the executive, to protect the unwary and to lay hold of the delinquent. That was the view taken by the marquis Wellesley; who had the manliness and the wisdom, whilst he wished to govern that country in the true spirit of justice and of mercy, yet to let it be seen that be felt it to he his first duty to protect the loyal and the well-disposed, and to assert the dignity of the laws. Hon. gentlemen, indeed, had said, that in the papers on the table, no traces could be found of the opinions and views of that noble marquis. But ministers would have betrayed their duty to the noble marquis and to the country, if, for the purpose of giving the sanction of his high name to such measures as they felt it right to propose to parliament, they had exposed in too naked a shape the views of the noble marquis, his opinions with respect to the state of the country, and the dangers with which it was assailed. Ministers laid before that House a narrative of transactions which had taken place to enable it to guide its course; and here he would say, as a minister of the Crown, standing in his place in parliament, and responsible for his acts, that no steps whatever were taken by ministers, with respect to Ireland, except at the earnest request of the noble person at the head of the government of that country, it was the solemn request of the marquis Wellesley to ministers, to give him, without delay, those powers which they called upon parliament to grant him, powers which had been granted, in times of public danger, to his predecessors. The government at home viewed that excellent and distinguished person as worthy of great confidence; but they would not view him as a demigod; they would not, with the hon. and learned gentleman, invest him with absolute power, and place him as a dictator over the lives and liberties of the people of Ireland. His majesty's ministers would take the concession of the hon. gentlemen opposite, but they would not apply it as they wished. The noble marquis himself looked not for arbitrary power: he did not wish to play the despot in Ireland. As the representative of a constitutional monarch, he wished to administer the laws of the land in the spirit of conciliation. He felt it to be his first duty to tranquillize the country; but there 149 could be little hope of ameliorating its condition, as long as the property and the lives of the loyal and well-disposed were at stake. The present differed from the former bills only in one clause, which he intended to read to the committee. It was a clause to render persons liable to the penalties of the law who should be found guilty of writing, sending, or posting threatening letters to procure arms or money. For that offence no provision had been made by the former acts. He would only beg, in conclusion, to say, that the bills which he now proposed were strongly recommended by the marquis Wellesley, and were prepared and settled by the present attorney-general.
§ Mr. Brougham
said, he never dreamt of conferring dictatorial power on the marquis Wellesley or on any other man. What he said was, that sooner than give extraordinary power to the local magistrates, he would give extraordinary, nay, dictatorial power for temporary purposes, to the noble marquis, placed at the head of the government, and responsible for his acts.
Leave was given to bring in the bill. On the motion, "that leave be given to bring in a bill to empower the lord lieutenant, or other chief governor or governors of Ireland, to apprehend and detain for a certain time such persons as he or they shall suspect of conspiring against his majesty's person and government," the House divided: Ayes, 195. Noes, 68.
|List of the Minority,|
|Abercromby, hon. J.||Fitzgibbon, hon. R.|
|Barret, S. B. M.||Fitzroy, lord C.|
|Beaumont, T. W.||Folkestone, lord|
|Benyon, Benj.||Forbes, lord|
|Bernal, R.||Grattan, J.|
|Birch, Joseph||Gurney, H.|
|Bright, Henry||Hamilton, lord A.|
|Brougham, Henry||Heron, sir R.|
|Burdett, sir F.||Hill, lord Arthur|
|Bury, lord||Hollywood, W. P.|
|Calvert, N.||Hobhouse, J. C.|
|Calvert, C.||Hume, J.|
|Carter, John||James, W.|
|Clifton, lord||Johnson, col.|
|Creevy, T.||Lambton, J. G.|
|Crompton, S.||Lennard, T. B.|
|Davies, col.||Lushington, Dr.|
|Denman, T.||Maberly, John|
|Denison, W. J.||Maberly, col.|
|Ebrington, visc.||Mackintosh, sir J.|
|Ellice, E.||Marjoribanks, S.|
|Ferrand, R.||Moore, Peter|
|Fergusson, sir R.||Nugent, lord|
|Fitzgerald, lord W.||Newport, sir J.|
|Ord, W.||Smith, W.|
|Ossulston, lord||Smith, hon. R.|
|Palmer, col.||Stuart, lord J.|
|Price, Robert||Tierney, rt. hon. G.|
|Ricardo, D.||Tennyson, C.|
|Robarts, A. W.||Wilson, sir R.|
|Robarts, col.||Wood, ald.|
|Rickford, W.||Winnington, sir T. E.|
|Rice, T. S.||TELLERS.|
|Scarlett, J.||Bennett, hon. H. G.|
|Sefton, earl||Hutchinson, hon. C. H.|
§ On the motion, that the Insurrection bill be now read the first time, the House divided: Ayes 202. Noes 44. On the motion, that the bill be printed, the House divided: Ayes 22. Noes 149. The bill was then read a second time.
§ Mr. Spring Rice
said, he should feel bound to take the sense of the House upon the bill now going into a committee.
The Marquis of Londonderry
expressed a wish, that the hon gentleman would allow the bill to pass its several stages that night, so that it might be sent up to the other House to-morrow, receive the royal sanction on Saturday, and be transmitted to Ireland this week. The hon. gentleman could not, he thought, gravely persist in his motion of adjournment.
§ Mr. Denman
said, he would oppose the passing of the bill that night, if the noble lord persisted in his determination of pressing it. Such a measure as this, involving the liberties and rights of a great country, ought not to pass like a bill, to which no objections could be made, and on which no information was required. Powers like those granted by this bill ought not to be granted without the fullest deliberation. If the noble lord persisted in his motion, he would employ the forms of the House to prevent such a precipitate vote.
The Marquis of Londonderry
said, as the learned gentleman intended to employ those forms which might stop the passing of the Insurrection bill that night, he would not press it, but would only beg that the other bill might be allowed without opposition to pass through the same stages, that both might proceed together.
This motion was agreed to; and the two bills were ordered to be committed tomorrow.